A large group of Israeli settlers have occupied a historical building in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron).
“Tens of Israelis entered a restricted building adjacent to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and security forces are currently on the spot,” said an Israeli military spokeswoman on Tuesday.
Local residents said that after forcefully entering the building, the settlers proceeded to rise an Israeli flag above it. They also noted the Israeli forces had arrived at the scene, but were not approaching the occupied building.
The occupied structure is next to Ibrahimi Mosque, which is believed to be the burial site of various biblical figures such as Abraham.
The Anti-settlement Israeli NGO Peace Now has called on local authorities to evacuate the settlers, which it said were comprised of a group of 15 families.
“After their claims of ownership had been denied, the settlers have decided to take the law into their own hands and establish an illegal settlement that might ignite the region,” said a statement released by the NGO.
Israeli settlers were ejected from the same building after occupying it in 2012, after failing to obtain the necessary permits to acquire it.
Israeli settlers, mostly armed, regularly commit actions such as occupying Palestinian lands or engaging in arson attacks against Palestinians and setting fire to their mosques, olive groves, and other properties.
More than half a million Israelis live in over 230 settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds. Built on occupied land, the settlements are internationally condemned as illegal.